UK

Mass Breastfeeding Protest Planned At Claridge's After Asking Mum To Cover Up

06/12/2014 10:45 GMT | Updated 06/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Mothers are to stage a mass "nurse-in" outside Claridge's hotel today to protest after a woman was "humiliated" by being asked to cover herself up when she was breast-feeding in its restaurant.

Mother-of-three Louise Burns complained that the Mayfair hotel asked her to put a napkin over her baby's head.

Claridge's has said it "embraces" breastfeeding but requests that women are "discreet towards other guests".

breastfeeding claridges

Louise Burns with and without the napkin over her baby's head

Nigel Farage became embroiled in the row on Friday, suggesting mothers could "sit in the corner" in restaurants to avoid offending people.

He insisted it was "not too difficult" to feed a child in a way that was "not openly ostentatious".

Setting out his views on the subject on his regular LBC radio phone-in, Mr Farage said: "I am not particularly bothered about it, but I know a lot of people do feel very uncomfortable.

"This is just a matter of common sense, isn't it? Given that some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn't too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that is not openly ostentatious."

He argued it was "up to Claridge's" what rules it wanted to operate.

Pressed on whether it would be right for a hotel to ask mothers to use the "ladies' room" to feed, the MEP replied: "Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be. That is up to Claridge's.

"It's not an issue I get terribly hung up about but I know particularly people of the older generation feel awkward and embarrassed by it."

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Today's demonstration is being organised by Free to Feed, which campaigns for the "normalising" of public breast-feeding.

Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts said: "It's bemusing that some people have a problem seeing mums breastfeeding.

"It is of course a natural, essential human process and those with an issue simply need to get over themselves - babies need to be fed when they're hungry and there's nothing ostentatious about a mother responding to that need."

The comments triggered mockery for Mr Farage on social media.

Downing Street said David Cameron disagreed with Mr Farage's comments, saying that it was "totally unacceptable" for mothers to be made to feel uncomfortable when feeding their babies in public.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: "It's for Mr Farage to explain his views.

"The prime minister shares the view of the NHS, which is that breastfeeding is completely natural and it's totally unacceptable for any women to be made to feel uncomfortable when breast-feeding in public."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tweeted: "After 'that' interview, Nigel Farage should sit in a corner!"

Mr Farage later issued a statement to clarify his position: "As I said on the radio, and as I repeat now, I personally have no problem with mothers breastfeeding wherever they want.

"What I said was - and it is immensely frustrating that I have to explain this - that if the establishment in question, in this case Claridge's, wants to maintain rules about this stuff, then that is up to them, as it should be.

"I remarked that perhaps they might ask women to sit in a corner. Did I say I believe they should have to? No. Did I say I personally endorse this concept? No.

"We do however have to recognise that businesses have a responsibility to all of their customers, some of whom may well be made uncomfortable by public breastfeeding.

"It's a two-way street - breastfeeding women should never be embarrassed by staff asking them to stop and most mums will recognise the need to be discreet in certain, limited, circumstances. It is just a question of good manners."

In his weekly column in The Daily Express, he wrote: "I suppose by now I should be used to being misrepresented by the press, though it does strike me as utterly immoral that they cosy up to you when they’re begging for interviews, then expect you to take them lying about you on the chin."

He added: "'Nigel’s said something about breastfeeding!' the media reacted. 'He must have said something terrible!' they assumed.

"Yet none of them listened to what I actually said. I have no personal problem with it, but I’m sensitive to the views of people who do.

"We live in a society, and one in which compromises need to be made in the interest of social cohesion.

"I don’t back the idea of women having to get up and move away to have to do it, and if the media wants to misrepresent what I have to say then they will find themselves in the corner very quickly.

In its editorial today, The Times, which Mr Farage has previously condemned as "the establishment paper", wrote: "Women have breasts. Babies don’t necessarily wait till they get home to ask for sustenance."